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Toyota Will Build a 60-Acre Facility to Test Autonomous Vehicles

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【Summary】The news comes after the Japanese automaker halted its self-driving program following Uber’s incident.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    May 06, 2018 9:05 AM PT
Toyota Will Build a 60-Acre Facility to Test Autonomous Vehicles

In the past few years, Toyota has been making large strides to develop autonomous technology. Earlier this March, Toyota partnered with Denso and Aisin to invest $2.8 billion into developing driverless software. Shortly after, the companies launched the Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development (TRI-AD) to focus on self-driving tech.

New Facility Will Help Toyota Develop Self-Driving Tech

Toyota, like many other companies, halted its autonomous program after Uber's self-driving vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona. It looks like Toyota's ready to continue where it left off, as the Toyota Research Institute announced plans to open a facility in Michigan to test its driverless vehicles. The site will be constructed inside Michigan Technical Resource Park's (MITRP) existing 1.75-mile oval facility.

The 60-acre facility will be located at the Michigan Technical Resource Park in Ottawa Lake, Mich. and will help the automaker replicate scenarios that are too risky to complete on public roads. The difficult driving maneuvers are referred to as "edge case" scenarios. Toyota will officially open the site in October that will feature "congested urban environments, slick surfaces and a four-lane divided highway with high-speed entrance and exit ramps."

Toyota hasn't officially restarted its public autonomous testing program and could be using the facility as its primary area of testing. More automakers are following in Toyota's footsteps and moving towards bespoke facilities as their primary grounds for testing. In light of recent incidents, some automakers and companies see public testing as being too dangerous.

A Safe, Remote Testing Site

"Our pause in testing on public roads in California and Michigan has allowed us to further refine and upgrade our Platform 2.0/2.1 test-vehicle fleet, in-line with the ongoing build-out of the Platform 3.0 fleet, introduced at this year's CES in Las Vegas," stated a spokesperson. "We will resume testing on public roads in a few weeks, once these three systems have been more closely aligned. It's important to note that our closed-course testing did not stop during this time."

By having its own bespoke facility, Toyota can get a lot of self-driving testing done in a safe area and focus on difficult situations. It also gives the Japanese brand the ability to perfect its technology before covering more miles on public roads.

"By constructing a course for ourselves, we can design it around our unique testing needs and rapidly advance capabilities, especially with Toyota Guardian automated vehicle mode," said Ryan Eustice, TRI senior vice president of automated driving. "This new site will give us the flexibility to customize driving scenarios that will push the limits of our technology and move us closer to conceiving a human-drive vehicle that is incapable of causing a crash."

The MITRP site, as Toyota outlined in a press release, has been a providing ground since 1968. It was originally created by a tier-one auto supplier, but was sold to a private developer in 2010. It's now a location for various suppliers, companies, and builders to testing technology. 

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